Marley and Dark Lord left the room, Julius bowing deeply to them as they left in an obsequious display of deference and servitude. However, his calm, knowing smile—contrasted with Dark Lord's rattled anger and high dudgeon—suggested the opposite. Who was the master and who was the servant here, she could not help but wonder.
As the heavy metal airship door slammed closed, the girl felt a chill run down her spine. Her unease deepened when Julius straightened and fixed his bright eyes on her.
"Ah, alone at last, Heretic Girl," he said. A few words chanted under his breath and soon orbs of dark magic were flying directly at her. She only had time to flinch away before she felt something slam into her and a sensation like tiny shocks of electricity traveling down her arms to her wrists. When the pain subsided, she examined her wrists and saw that they were encased in disks of a deep purple color that seemed to almost eat the light.
With a casual flick of Julius's fingers, the disks flew up and apart, taking her wrists with them until she was standing with her arms extended in opposite directions above her head.
"Tell me where the key to Mana Sanctuary is and you go free."
The room was silent.
"Very well, I see you will not make it easy." He began chanting again, his hair and cloak whipping in the wind created from waves of energy.
And then pain ripped through her body, starting from a punching stab in her belly and spreading outwards to her hands and feet, leaving behind a burning sensation on her skin like fire. She cried out in spite of herself, mostly in an instinctive panic that it might actually be fire tracing along her skin. The pain spread to her chest, a sudden pressure against her heart and lungs that caused her throat to close up, her cry becoming a hoarse choke. Then the pain subsided from its peak, leaving behind a strange tingling sensation between her legs.
"Well?" Julius prompted.
Anger helped her find her voice. "What makes you think I know anything about the key?"
"Don't play stupid, girl," he replied. "There is a secret to accessing the Mana Sanctuary, and the Mana Tribe passes that knowledge from generation to generation. What is it? An item? A spell? A secret path? Surely you must have heard something."
I was so young when you sacked my village, she thought, anger rising up in her chest at the memory. How could you expect anyone would entrust a child with that information?
"Glares are not answers."
Julius uttered a few more words and she was once again blasted with dark magic, tearing its way through her skin. She screamed. The pain lasted for a few seconds and then let her go, again leaving behind a sort of warm heat between her legs.
"Feel free to scream as loud as you like. The soldiers know not to interrupt me during an interrogation." As he spoke, the cabin lurched. "Ah, good, it looks like we are airborne. You are in my hands until we land; I suggest you cooperate."
"I don't know what you're talking about."
The mage sighed. "Very well."
Pain coursed through her a third time. She managed to keep from crying out this time, other than a small, choked whimper at the very end.
"If you don't want to tell me about the key," Julius said when the pain had subsided, "perhaps you can answer my other question. Your tribe is so close to the Mana Goddess—I'm sure you pray to her every day. What does your devotion get you?" He extended his hand, closing his fingers around her throat, his sharp nails digging into her skin. "Tell me—why did she allow your village to burn?! And why does she not save you right now?"
Her eyes flashed with anger. "So," she said, "you can recognize how horrible your actions have been for my people." She struggled to keep her voice even. "Then why—how can you continue? You, Dark Lord, everyone in Granz Realm, could stop at any time and yet you use the Mana Goddess to avoid taking responsibility."
Julius tutted. "You have not answered my question. Are you saying the actions of mere human beings are beyond the goddess's control? Are not humans more powerful than the Mana Goddess then?" He released her and stepped back. "How disappointing that not a single member of the Mana Clan has been able to answer my questions."
"I have nothing to say to—" The dark magic ripped through her again, tearing another scream from her throat. In its aftermath, she could feel her limbs trembling, her chest heaving with deep breaths, her face flushed.
"Don't throw your life away like all the others. I have no reason to harm you once you give me the key."
And then all the other members of the Mana Clan would have died for nothing. "I will never—"
"—'love you'?" Julius interjected.
For a moment, the girl was thrown into a stunned silence at the unexpected reply. As she was finding her voice again, Julius turned to her and leaned forward to study her face more closely. "You are an obstinate girl," he murmured, "but yes, now I see your true colors. You are her daughter, aren't you?"
Something in the way he said it... He wasn't talking about Elise. "You.. know my mother? My real mother?"
The man just smiled enigmatically. "If you wish to know the answer to that, give me the key to Mana Sanctuary."
"I told you, I don't know anything," she lied.
"Is that so?"
Julius began to chant again, and the girl braced herself against the magic. She writhed under its pain, muscles straining against the disks that would not budge, wishing the man now circling around her could truly understand a fraction of the hate she felt for him.
"Don't resist me, Mana Girl," he said as she struggled to catch her breath in the wake of the spell. "Either way, I'll wring it out of you."
The magic was taking its toll and she felt exhaustion settling into her limbs and muscles at withstanding so many bursts of the magic, but there was something else... Her heart was beating rapidly, her nerves on edge, almost tingling with expectation. Something's wrong, something—
Her train of thought was interrupted by another blast. She clenched her teeth against the pain, but at the very end, when the pain was fading from its peak, she again felt an electric pulse between her legs, and this time, the sound that escaped from her was a moan.
This magic... Was it possible? He was purposely... Her eyes followed him as the mage continued to pace in a slow circle around her, a smile on his lips.
Halfway around the circle, he drew close to her and brushed aside the thick curls of her hair in order to lift sweat-dampened hair off the back of her neck. The air, cool on her skin, sent a shiver through her spine. "Still nothing to say?" came his voice, close to her ear. The girl tried her best to hide her fear, breathing as deeply and evenly as she could so as to sound calm, trying to slow her jumping heartbeat.
Julius began the incantation again and, when he finished, placed his hand directly on the back of her neck. She could feel the dark magic sink into her, slipping below the skin of her neck and spreading out to her head and arms and down her back, stabbing into her like needles as it went. She cried out, but only for a moment; the pain seemed to give away quickly to those pulsating fingers of sensation that spread up into her abdomen and down her thighs—seemed to reach deep inside her, leaving her trembling.
And then she felt a hand slip under her tabard to cup a breast through the fabric of her shift. The girl yelped at the alien touch. After a moment, anger replaced the shock—how dare he touch her like that?!
"Oh? You don't like that?" came Julius's voice, mocking. "I am happy to stop. If you give me the answers I desire..."
"Get bitten by a rabite," she said through clenched teeth.
The retort seemed to amuse the mage more than anger him. Under her clothes, his finger brushed against a nipple, circling and stroking it to stiffness. The girl could feel her face becoming hot with humiliation. There was nothing to do but to bear it.
And then there was another of burst of dark magic sinking into her skin, pulsing through her body.
She bit her lip to keep back the moans. She was so close to the edge—she felt faint, light-headed. It took all her concentration just to not lose control.
Julius withdrew his hand and circled around to stand in front of her again. For a few moments the two of them stood in silence, studying each other. The mage looked pleased, his eyes gleaming in the sunlight streaming in through the airship windows. A feeling of dread built up in her gut. Please... please no more, she begged internally. She wouldn't give him the satisfaction of voicing it, though. Instead she shut her eyes and prayed silently for some miraculous rescue, as unlikely as it was.
It was to no avail—she was once more punched in the gut by Julius's magic.
"You can't hold out forever," came Julius's voice from nearby.
I'll wring it out of you.
She felt sick as she realized that he may not have been referring to the secrets of the Mana Tribe after all. She had no time to consider this further as Julius cast the spell once again.
I can't take it...
The climax that had been building up could no longer be held back. She cried out, helpless in the wake of the unending feeling of pleasure, her head swimming. Her legs trembled and could no longer hold her weight; if her wrists were not fixed in place by magic, she would have crumpled to the floor. As it was, she just slumped heavily in place. And then it was over at last.
Tears of humiliation burned in her eyes, threatening to spill out. When Julius grabbed her face and forced her to look him in the eyes, they nearly did.
"I could give you more," he was saying. "Infinite amounts of pleasure."
She hardly heard. Instead, she spat in his face, ten years of venom contained in an act that lasted a moment.
For the first time, this act seemed to rattle him, to kindle his temper into a wild flame. "It seems all women despise Julius," he said in a level voice, as he wiped away the spittle, but his voice wavered just slightly at the edges, and his eyes shone with a barely-suppressed anger. "Fine! If you want to die so badly, I shall grant your wish. Burn with my fire, Mana Girl!" His hands closed around her neck, and true to his words, a sensation like fire spread through her body.
She screamed. If he could read her mind, though, she welcomed the pain, because it was born from his fury. And she would have rather died than be subjected to what he had done to her.
As suddenly as it started, the pain stopped. Light intermingled with the dark magic and Julius cried out in pain. As the mage doubled over and fell to his knees, the girl also felt her wrists released from their cage and she too fell to the floor. For a moment, lying on the ground, she almost lost consciousness. But then she heard glass shattering and a familiar voice calling her name. At the sound, she struggled to her feet, but her legs buckled underneath her. There, in the porthole on the side of the airship appeared the face of that Granz Realm boy. He was calling out to her, telling her to escape through the window. She tried to obey, but she could not even make it to her feet. Instead she yanked hard at the cord around her neck and threw the pendant at the window with all her might. Her aim was true and the boy caught it in a gloved hand.
"Take it and go!" she shouted.
He looked at the pendant in his hands in confusion. But his confusion only lasted a moment as in the next instant Julius was there, a cloud of dark magic gathering in his hands. When it burst forward, it sent the boy flying back, and then he was falling through air. She felt a scream come from her throat.
She sunk to the ground, the world swimming around her. She could hear far-away voices: the voice of Dark Lord, berating Julius; the soothing voice of Cibba.
Then Dark Lord's voice again, nearer. "Her injuries are serious," he was saying. She cracked open her eyes to see that heavy gold mask floating above her, before she lost consciousness entirely.