95. Mutual Defeat

posted 25th Apr 2019, 5:47 AM

95. Mutual Defeat
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25th Apr 2019, 5:47 AM

Chernobog

By now, the story had run long and the patience of Bali's other visitors was waning, making them curious what was taking so long. She turned to notice Astrile of the Bloodflowers eyeing the two of them suspiciously. And by now, Tulsan Mune had caught up with them, only to stand silently, folding his arms (which was what she had seen him do most of anything thus far) next to a curious faced Rottkap. Even Tom Thumb was lurking about, although she had been too distracted to notice his presence or the fact he had been hiding in the peppery red grass the whole time, listening. Bali sighed and turned back to Karolina.

Karolina stood facing away. Bali walked astride of her and put a comforting hand on the shovel witch's shoulder. She knew it was a lot to process and little of it was good or endearing. Karolina, for her sake, looked utterly destroyed and resigned.

"Why... why did you tell me all of that?" she finally muttered, lifeless.

"Aside from you having the right to know after all this time... that whole thing with the black fire? The grey skin? That wasn't a spell, was it?" The question Bali asked was rhetoric.

Karolina shook her head.

For a moment, nothing was said. Bali waited for the flicker of realization.

Karolina raised her head slightly after several seconds as it dawned on her, and then cast her gaze downward, ashamed. "Outer Hell... it's influence isn't gone after all, is it?"

Bali winced. "The truth of everything here is... when I came back to Adelaide, I wanted to see who was behind the wheel, so to speak. You or the original identity of you. It wasn't a chance encounter that I came to check on you at all. There was every possibility that my hypnosis didn't work entirely for whatever reason. I had to be certain..."

"Why then? Why not later or another time altogether?" Karolina somberly asked, feeling lower than she ever knew.

"Because..." Bali bit her bottom lip. "I heard... about... what happened to Adelaide. Everyone did. You noticed no one stepped foot in that town? I needed to see..."

Karolina froze.

Bali took a deep sad breath. "Karolina, I'm so sorry... I do fully believe you're whoever you became after the hypnosis. But..."

"I did it," Karolina whispered. "Dear god. The village. Everyone in it. My family... I... I..."

"Your aunt once essentially told me your shadow essence builds to out of control levels when not used. Much like a sealed kettle with nowhere to release the steam. When she came back to you, she probably didn't know what to say anymore. I imagine she felt guilty, conflicted, and haunted. So she never identified herself again to you and instead gave you the magic book again. I would guess she figured out what happened."

"I... I killed everyone in Adelaide. I'm not even that person anymore... and I still somehow did it. If I had just practiced... why didn't she tell me?"

"I don't think she knew, Kara. She couldn't face her sister- your mother, after everything that happened. I don't think she even suspected you were around anymore. So she came to you that one day with some heavy things on her heart."

"And all this... you, Ruukunda, whenever I destroyed Adelaide... I had this whole history, this entire life just... there, and I never knew a thing. I just sat there, digging holes for everyone, living out my life like some kind of ghost of myself. And it was all me. I was the bad guy."

"I had hoped my hypnosis would have stopped this from occurring, but if this wasn't from whatever remains of Outer Hell within you, then it directly is a result of your massive shadow essence. It could have happened in your sleep even..."

"Bali..."

"It was an accident, Kara! You aren't technically responsible for-"

Karolina gently slid Bali's hand off her shoulder. She glanced at the remains of Siouxsie. "This is... more than... I can really..." she slurred, trailing off.

"I'm sorry... Karolina. I wish there was a better way to relate all of this. But remember, you're not that person you were. You're still a friend, in my eyes. And-"

"Bali?"

"Yes?"

"I need to be alone now, Bali. I know you meant well. And you've done a lot for me, but..." She shook her head. "I think this is where we part. Don't follow me."

Bali stood wordless as Karolina picked up her things quietly, including Siouxsie's remains, and began to walk away.

"Wait... where are you going?" the spiderwoman asked.

Karolina paused and turned her head briefly to glance at the spiderwoman. "You've been a good friend. Better than I ever deserved. I know I put you through a lot and you've given me more second chances than some people get in a lifetime. Goodbye, Bali." She turned once more and walked away.

Bali stood silently, reaching in front of her, as if to touch Karolina, but the witch was already making a steady pace away from the group. Slowly, Bali lowered her arms and cast her own gaze downward this time.

"Reckless," they had called her.

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