“Oh, it’s you,” Purgatory sighed, disappointed that it had not been someone more exciting.
“Why, you are happy to see me, Mister,” Locker, Sergeant of the 10th Rune Knight Custody Enforcement Unit, returned the reception with a sarcastic grin. “I would have personally arranged a welcome in recognition of what you had done for this village a week ago, but…” As he sat down across Purgatory, Locker removed his three-topped Rune Knight hat, brushing off revealing his sections of hair burnt off to the scalp. The fire had been extremely efficient and targeted; not one strand had lost its cinnamon colour. “…we had to deal with that spectacle of yours first. As is our duty.”
“You managed to ‘deal with’ that?” Purgatory snorted, shaking his head in unbelieving amusement. “Forgive me if I highly doubt that that little laundry pole you Rune Knights carry around could do more than act as firewood to that level of magic.”
“You seem more pissed off than normal, Mister,” Locker remarked, prompting Purgatory to realize that the Sergeant had no idea about him.
“Be more careful,” Aldous advised from inside, “I’m not ready to return just yet.”
“Hell yes I’m pissed off. If you were the one to be forcibly hauled away, locked in these chains and blamed, without evidence mind you, that you caused some super magical catastrophe, even though it did little more than create a sun in the night, I’m sure you too would be just as cranky right now!”
“And shut up! I don’t NEED your advice!” Purgatory gritted his teeth behind his lips. He made a mistake, so what? Why do people just love to keep pointing out even the teensiest of mistakes?
Obviously he had to be fuming steam right now, because Locker’s face was paling at the sight and when he managed to speak again, his tone was much more careful. “Forgive those men for being a little too eager with doing their jobs. It isn’t just you who is complaining. We have many others who find our new methods too harsh, too draconian and think we take a “guilty till proven innocent” stance and from their perspective, they are quite justified. But after what happened with Acnologia, security and policing had to be greatly stepped up. A lot of people, many of them Rune Knights, lost their lives then. They, everyone, just want to avoid another incident like that. Don’t you see? I hope you understand.”
“Uuuu….,” Purgatory pouted. He was personally unconcerned with the petty sentiments and paranoia of lower beings, but right now, he had to pretend to be that the all-caring, all-charitable messiah that he so desperately despised, Aldous. “Fine…” That one word was worth the entirety of his pride and dignity.
“Thank you, the Rune Knights don’t get much support these days.” ‘Yeah, I wonder why that is so,’ Purgatory thought, but he, wisely, kept that to himself. “So, you going to let me out?”
“Almost,” Locker halted him with a ‘stop’ hand, while fingering through some files that he had produced from under his uniform. Whatever they contained, they were extremely thin, which made sense to the watching Aldous since he never really showed his face in public. “I can vouch that you aren’t capable of such magical prowess, nor do you have any harmful intentions towards the villages nearby, but I still cannot rule out that you were at the scene and thus, a key witness to what happened.”
“Someone else did it, okay! That’s all you should need to know,” Purgatory, ever so brief with his masks, was already beginning to break. “Some old man transformed some campfire into that giant flame tower you Rune Knights somehow managed to extinguish.” Purgatory had clearly not let that last part go, his disbelief in lower beings having such capabilities.
“An old man?” Locker raised his brow. “Please, could you be more specific, Mister?” He dodged the question and Purgatory saw that he was clearly not in the position to assert his right for an answer. Must be some top-secret Rune Knight stuff. Maybe Acnologia had finally taught them to get a much-needed upgrade.
Letting leak a sigh of resignation (the last he will let anybody see), Purgatory relented and told Locker what he knew about the Trinketeer. Throughout the reveal, Purgatory attempted numerous times to slip in a question about what the Rune Knights did back, but Locker was definitely experienced with interrogations and on the lookout for such tracks, so he always managed to pull Purgatory back on track, wringing every detail out of him until he was a dry desert.
The whole process took ten minutes, but for Purgatory, it felt like an infinite eternity. “Damn you, Aldous. You were supposed to be the one to deal with these things.” Aldous did not answer, as if he had turned himself off from Purgatory’s voice. Purgatory fumed at this obviously deliberate absence, leaving him to deal with this. Was it payback for what he said back then? Him not needing his advice? Well, that was never going to change, no matter what the landlord.
“Alright, I gave you all you asked for. Can I go now?” Purgatory snapped at Locker, without a doubt in his mind that this Rune Knight was just being a waste of his precious time.
“Yes,” Locker acknowledged, giving out that smile that so infuriated Purgatory with its self-satisfaction and complete ignorance of his rebelliousness. As if he was conversing with a child who just wanted to play. ‘I’m not one of your frail little boys,’ Purgatory hissed, furiously conjuring up ideas to snap that Locker’s spine, rearrange every bone, skin him alive, et cetera et cetera. “You may go, Mister. Would you like an escort?”
“I am not a child. I can exit a building by myself. Thank you very much,” Purgatory took the chance to express himself. He immediately regretted it to a slight degree, knowing full well that he could have blown his cover then and there. But Locker only nodded, in that (mockingly) understanding fashion of his, and gestured him towards the door.
As Purgatory exited, slightly puzzled over how he dodged that bullet, and passed through the Rune Knight headquarters, he begun to realize something. Something Locker said just does not seem to...
When Locker was interrupted from his train of thought, he realized that he had already stepped out into the streets of Beanstalk Village, the trademark beanstalks out in the distance, towering over every other building in sight.
Purgatory would have admired them in his own derisive and disgusted manner, but right now, what waited before was grabbing the entirety of his attention, while fouling up his mood at the same time.
“…So the little rolling scrap heap was the one who brought that Locker mongrel to me. Oh, my saviour, should I give you some oil to lubricate your gears?”
“Glad to see you are fine too, Pug,” Abraxis smirked as widely as his brass bell of a mouth would allow him. “I was so worried. I never thought that the mighty Purgatory would bend his head so easily to the law, to the point where he had to be saved by a scrap heap and a mongrel. Oh how you have fallen. Would you like to lean on me?”
“And give you the pleasure of falling apart from under me? I think not,” Purgatory brushed the bicycle off, “I would rather use a dung heap than you for support.”
“Oh how wonderful!” Abraxis ‘cheered’. “I was wondering how I could hide the smell!”
Purgatory’s jaw tightened enough that he might bite through stone. “Why you little…!”
“Enough, Purgatory!” Aldous suddenly called from within, his presence suddenly returning to the mental surface. “I’m sure you are tired from Locker’s questioning.”
“No thanks to you.” Purgatory answered bitterly, as he slowly slithered away from the reins, the physical body twitching slightly to represent the transition. “I’m going to rest,” he warned to both Aldous and Abraxis. “Don’t look me up for a long while, else I….”
“Yeah yeah, you’ll cry for a bedtime story. We get the drift. Just leave already,” Abraxis
“Tch.” And with that, Purgatory slipped into obscurity, out of touch, out of mind. With his departure, Aldous assumed complete control, re-familiarising himself with his body. As he stretched his arm out, he could almost feel new sinews of magic power coursing among his veins and when he practised drawing a Formula, his fingers danced faster than ever before and for a moment there, he found himself putting too much energy into the seal. It’ll take some time, but he will get used to his new limits. Beizel's treatment had really done the job.
“Wow, you are looking good. I take it you got what you wanted from your trip?” Abraxis whispered to Aldous. The latter had already assured him that Purgatory was too deep in his mind to hear them, but the bicycle, while having put on a brave front against him, was really terrified of what the violent entity would do to them if he were to find out how they cheated him of the secrets of Amaterasu Formula.
“Yeah.” Finally ready to take on the world again, Aldous gave a tiny smile as he opened his hand. As if on cue, a little red butterfly, its resplendent wings leaving behind a trail of fiery lights, glided down from the sky, resting gently upon Aldous’ palm as it morphed back into the butterfly brooch.
“You won’t believe where my mind wandered off to.”